Strategy secrets: mergers
Creating a strategy after a merger isn’t about starting from scratch but building upon the best of what’s gone before, says Breast Cancer Now’s CEO Delyth Morgan.
Q: What is the key to creating one, unified strategy immediately after a merger?
Breakthrough Breast Cancer and the Breast Cancer Campaign came together in 2015 because of the similarities in our strategies, so it was very important to us not to rip up the existing approaches. The external environment was the same, the problem was the same and the knowledge and evidence wasn’t different because we’d merged.
However, after a merger, it is very difficult to function without a strategy specifically for your organisation, so immediately we focused on building on what we had so that we could consolidate our two strategies into one Action Plan – a document that everyone could use quickly.
Then we were ready for a huge amount of debate and discussion, plus a re-examining of evidence and, once the organisation had settled, we developed a new five-year strategy for the future which began in 2017.
Q: How did you ensure that your current strategy reflects the needs of breast cancer patients and their families?
Strategic planning is all about engagement – going out and talking to people. As part of our brand process, we consulted about 1,000 patients, service users and other people affected by breast cancer and asked them what they wanted from a charity like us.
For me, creating a strategy is a diamond-shaped process. You start by crystallising your vision and then you open it up massively for discussion among all of your stakeholders and the evidence and environment around you. Then your trustees and senior leadership team use their skills to focus it back down and translate all of that thinking into a clear direction.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give to a social sector CEO embarking upon a strategic plan right now?
Don’t rush it: the process is as important as the destination. Getting all your trustees, stakeholders, staff and beneficiaries involved is the most fruitful engagement that you can have. You learn so much about your organisation and how people view you. And don’t worry too much if you want to start all over again in a couple of years; it’s never-ending, a bit like painting the Forth Road Bridge.